In the State of California, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board provides support for unrepresented injured workers. In order to assist unrepresented injured workers, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board makes available Information and Assistance Officers. This article will discuss Information and Assistance Officers and their role in assisting workers.
What is an Information and Assistance Officer?
Per the Department Industrial Relations (DIR), the DWC Information and Assistance Unit provides information and assistance to employees, employers, labor unions, insurance carriers, physicians, attorneys and other interested parties concerning rights, benefits, and obligations under California’s Workers’ Compensation Laws. The Unit is intended to play a major role in reducing litigation before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) and is often the first DWC contact for injured workers.
What are the ways I can get in contact with an Information and Assistance Officer?
Per the DIR, at the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC) 22 district offices plus satellites located around the state, sometimes called Workers Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB), employers, injured workers and others can receive judicial services to assist in the prompt and fair resolution of disputes that sometimes arise from workers’ compensation claims. Local district offices of the WCAB are a major part of the workers’ compensation court system. At these local district offices, Judges make decisions about individual cases.
Most offices have Information and Assistance (I&A) Officers on staff who provide a variety of services to injured workers, employers and others. A primary duty of I&A officers is to help injured workers who don’t have attorneys navigate the workers’ compensation system. They have an 800 number, 1-800-736-7401, for recorded information from I&A staff 24 hours a day. Also, you can contact a local office during business hours to reach a live person.
How do I contact the Information and Assistance Unit?
There are a few different ways that you can contact the Information and Assistance Unit. You can contact them concerning specific information related to your case. Also, you can contact them concerning workers’ compensation law in general.
If you need assistance specifically concerning your case, you can call your local WCAB offices to make contact. They will usually schedule you for an appointment.
Are there additional types of services that the Information & Assistance Officer provides?
The WCAB provides additional assistance by providing general information. They have an information phone line as well as provide workshops.
If you want general assistance, they offer recorded information by calling 1-800-736-7401. This is for recorded information that helps injured workers, employers and others understand California’s workers’ compensation system, and their rights and responsibilities under the law.
For workshops, the Information and Assistance Unit offers free presentations concerning workers’ compensation and they address the following: rights to medical treatment, disability payments, returning to work after the injury, resolutions of disagreements over the claim. The workshops consist of a presentation followed by a question and answer session. The workshops are designed for injured workers who recently filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. They also indicated that they can be of benefit to others. They are open to the public. They are generally held on a monthly basis.
The locations that currently provide workshops include:
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Marina Del Rey
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Luis Obispo
- Santa Ana
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Rosa
- Van Nuys
Are Information & Assistance Officers helpful?
Yes. They are helpful in many ways. Information and Assistance Offices are familiar with a multitude of things. They are very familiar with the workings at their local WCAB offices. They are familiar with all of the DWC Staff at the WCAB including the Workers’ Compensation Judges. They have ongoing relationships with these individuals which allows them to effectively assist and provide information to those seeking information. Further, they have access to the case files through the State of California’s EAMS system and can obtain and review documents within the individual case files.
Additionally, they are familiar with many of the attorneys, both applicant and defense, which practice at the board.
From Your Observations, What Do I & A Officers Do?
From my observations at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the I & A officers do a variety of things. They meet with the unrepresented injured workers at scheduled times. It appears that they prefer that appointments are scheduled. There may be the possibility of doing a walk-in meeting as well. It appears that they take their time and try to be as informative as possible. They can provide various forms to Injured Workers and they can assist them with those forms. They can assist in walk-through settlements for Injured Workers that are in pro per. Also, when there is an Injured Worker whose case is on a calendar, they make the appearance on the hearing with the Injured Worker and show up before the Judge. This is usually for Conferences, Status, Priority, and Mandatory. I have seen I & A Officers interact with the Disability Evaluation Unit and have discussions with Judges to get their opinions on various issues concerning the unrepresented worker. They tend to be good at issue spotting and they have good knowledge of the insurance companies, doctors and attorneys that they may have encountered.
As an Attorney, Do You Find I & A Officers Helpful?
Yes. They are helpful. I have no problem having someone interact with an I & A Officer. In the past, I have never questioned any advice that had been provided by the Information and Assistance Officers. Their information is accurate.
Is there a difference between an Applicant’s Attorney and an Information and Assistance Officer?
Yes. Applicant’s Attorneys are advocates on behalf of Injured Workers. In addition to providing information to the injured worker, they take on an advocacy position on behalf of the injured worker. They formulate discovery plans, litigation strategies, and settlement planning.
Applicant’s Attorneys provide a considerable amount of assistance to injured workers. They conduct discovery such as order records and schedule medical treatment and examination for Injured Workers. Further, they possess knowledge concerning doctors and are able to use it for the advantage of their client. They are able to defend an Injured Worker in a deposition. They are able to depose doctors and witnesses. They are able to conduct trials. They are able to final petitions for removal and reconsideration. They are able to file appeals as well.
In sum, advocacy with the Workers’ Compensation takes special training beyond the issue spotting abilities of an I&A Officer. The I&A Officers may identify the issue but it is an advocate who can prove the facts and make the arguments to win on various issues. An I & A Officer does not deal with ongoing workers’ compensation litigation on a day to day basis. I & A Officers do not perform discovery on behalf of Injured Workers. Therefore, IVA officers and Application’s Attorney assist injured workers in different ways.
Where Can I Get Legal Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.